florence, italy: easter and il scoppio del carro

Scoppio del Carro

Scoppio del Carro

Scoppio del Carro

Scoppio del Carro

We accidentally slept in today and almost missed Scoppio del Carro (history below). We quickly suited up Winston and headed out for a brisk walk across the river. We got there with a few minutes to spare and hung out with the oxen in Piazza della Repubblica...Winston did not know what to think about those HUGE animals.

By accident, we happened down a street that ended up being perfect for watching the actual exploding of the cart. So much fun!

History

The Scoppio del Carro, or Explosion of the Cart, is a mixed pagan/religious ceremony. Marking both Easter and Spring, the successful ignition of the cart guarantees good crops, a successful harvest, stable civic life and bountiful trade, as well as signifying the passage of new holy fire to light those extinguished on Good Friday.

A thirty-foot carved and painted wooden cart (the present version is over 150 years old) is pulled by flower- bedecked white oxen from Porta al Prato to Piazza del Duomo. A mechanical dove ‘flies’ down a line through the open doors of the cathedral, picks up ‘fire’ at the altar, returns to the cart and ignites the explosion of one of the best day-time fireworks display in the world.

It was during the pontificate of Leo X (Giovanni de’Medici, 1513-1521), the ‘colombina‘ – the mechanical bird, shaped like a dove with an olive branch in its beak – was used for the first time. At the Gloria of the Easter Mass, the deacon uses holy fire kindled from the stone chips – obtained during the crusades of 1099 from the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem – to light a fuse attached to the dove.